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Aligning our plans

There are a huge number of very important plans for Auckland’s future out for consultation at the moment, as I commented on in this previous post. However, one key thing will be to ensure they align with each other – as it’s pretty silly for one plan to be promoting something that would completely undermine what another plan is trying to achieve. Within the Auckland Plan alone I have some concern that the many roading projects proposed will undermine efforts throughout the plan to contain urban sprawl. Widening the Southern Motorway seems like a recipe for sprawl to the south, building Puhoi-Wellsford seems like a recipe for sprawl to the north – and so forth. I often think that perhaps the biggest reason we’ve struggled to properly implement the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy over the past 10 years is because much of our transport policy has promoted roading projects completely at odds with the goals of that strategy.

The one project in the Auckland Plan that I think has the potential to most undermine what the rest of the plan is trying to achieve, and certainly is at risk of undermining what the wonderfully exciting City Centre Master Plan is trying to achieve, is a duplicate road-based harbour crossing – a project I discussed in some detail here recently. The Auckland Plan notes that another harbour crossing is definitely a while way, but seems to buy the argument put forward by NZTA that a road crossing should happen before a rail crossing. What that means is a huge increase in roading capacity between Takapuna and the city centre, as shown in the map below:

What I find of most concern with this project is the potential for there to be a fundamental conflict between what it’s trying to achieve – more roading capacity into the city centre – with what the City Centre Master Plan is entirely based upon, reducing the domination of the city centre by cars, removing a lot of roadspace and making the city far more friendly to pedestrians.

As part of NZTA’s detailed study of the additional harbour crossing project, one of their specialist reports looked at the impact of the project on local roads at either end of the new crossing. One of the primary concerns even their study had was this effect of increased capacity on the city centre:

The issue is decribed in a bit more detail further on in the study:

The scenario agreed for this study (for both bridge and tunnel options) includes the following lane allocation on the existing bridge:

  • One lane for walking and cycling;
  • A bus lane in each direction, but with general traffic heading to the Shelly Beach off ramp sharing the southbound bus lane; and
  • Five general traffic lanes in total, assumed to operate with three southbound and two northbound lanes in the weekday morning peak, with the reverse in the evening peak.

This scenario would provide three southbound lanes for general in the weekday morning peak plus additional capacity, equivalent to around half a lane, for general traffic heading to the Shelly Beach off ramp. This scenario also provides the opportunity for a significant increase in the rate of flow from Esmonde Road (and Akoranga Drive) onto the Northern Motorway, thereby increasing the rate of flow able to cross the Harbour and reaching the Auckland CBD. A range of options could be used to limit the rate of flow able to cross the Harbour, including changes in the lane allocation. However, for the purposes of this assessment it has been agreed that the effects of the additional crossing will be assumed to be restricted by some means and that this should be reflected by modelling ramp signals on the important Esmonde Road southbound on ramp.

Capacity constraints are already predicted to exist on the approaches to or on the other on ramps during the morning peak, and providing ramp signals at Esmonde Road will therefore further constrain the rate of flow able to pass across the harbour and into the Auckland CBD.

When you think about it, the fact that this project mainly provides for more capacity from Takapuna to the city centre is obvious – as that’s the only place where more lanes will be added. It’s certainly impossible to add more lanes through spaghetti junction to the south, so any additional crossing won’t actually reduce traffic pressure through that part of the motorway network (plus isn’t that what the Western Ring Route’s for?)

You get an idea about the level of change to traffic volumes due to the project from looking at the table below:

Shelly Beach Road and Cook Street are the two streets that experience the most significant change. The impact of the project on Cook Street traffic flows are simply massive, almost a triping of traffic compared to if the project didn’t happen – not exactly consistent with the vision of the City Centre Master Plan which is to reduce the number of cars downtown. You can see why Cook Street’s volumes increase so dramatically – as it becomes the main on and offramp for vehicles in the southern part of the CBD:

There are many situations where I am concerned about mismatches between the different plans – for example making Warkworth a growth node doesn’t really equate with other policies to reduce auto-dependency (the only point of it seems to be to help justify the holiday highway). With there being so many plans, and the plans being so comprehensive, it’s somewhat inevitable that we will see contradictions – but their existence is something that I think exemplifies why previous large-scale plans in Auckland haven’t quite delivered their promises.

It will be interesting to see what changes end up being made to these draft plans as a result of submissions. One would hope that many of the contradictions within the plans and between the plans can be highlighted and hopefully resolved. But then one has to have faith that the politicians (who will be making final decisions on what changes are made to the Auckland Plan, City Centre Master Plan etc.) want to resolve the differences, rather than being the cause of these contradictions in the first place.

36 comments to Aligning our plans

  • Malcolm

    Right. So if I understand the table correctly, if we do nothing, traffic volumes will go up slightly by 2026. If we build another crossing, they go up a lot more. Why build another crossing then? Surely it makes more sense to get more people onto public transport, maybe make one of the five peak flow lanes into a bus lane. Extend the busway and make PT more appealing and save a shitload of money. Build the pedestrian crossing as well and get people off the road completely.

  • Gary Young

    The proposed alignment does no more than offer an additional route between two existing choke points which makes no sense to me at all and in my opinion has a cost effectiveness approaching zero.

    If the intent was to relieve the existing load on the Harbour Bridge then a crossing to Devonport would be a more logical choice. That, of course, is unthinkable given the damage it would cause to the peninsular. Presumably the powers that be are aware of the backlash they would unleash if it was suggested.

    I wonder then if logic or rationality are being applied at all. Perhaps the alignments feed into Onewa Road because no supporter of the second crossing would dare put it anywhere else.

  • Feijoa

    I agree, another road-only crossing is a stupid project and is just going to create problems for the city/shift congestion/replay all of the issues of the last 5 decades.

    How well do you think an argument like “Public transport already carries 40% of peak users, provides 100% of the growth in numbers and is responsible for all of the reduction in travel time; therefore it should have all of the new crossing project budget” would go down with Mr Joyce? I have a feeling he wouldn’t even accept the argument to allow 40% of the budget to be used on public transport, since he only seems to apply this particular logic when it can be used to reduce public transport investment…

    As an aside, I notice your blog has grown to over 3 million words which represents a huge investment by you and your correspondents. It is a wonderful resource. Please tell me you (or Archives NZ?) are keeping it very well backed up!

    • As an aside, I notice your blog has grown to over 3 million words which represents a huge investment by you and your correspondents. It is a wonderful resource. Please tell me you (or Archives NZ?) are keeping it very well backed up!

      The wordpress SQL database gets backed up quite frequently, though I probably should ensure it’s downloaded and not just stored online. The site as a whole is more difficult to ensure frequent backups, because with all the images it is freaking huge.

  • Ben

    My response about the second crossing currently planned/thought about is here http://transportblog.co.nz/2011/09/22/looking-closer-at-the-harbour-crossing-proposal

    I do wonder is simple logic escapes our planners and engineers somedays.

  • Matt L

    I think part of the problem we have is that we have had lots of urban myths ingrained into us that we are struggling to overcome, most of the population blindly believe we need another crossing without actually considering the impacts it would have so that’s why politicians keep pushing it. We have the same issue with people arguing against PT improvements saying that Auckland is to spread out for PT to work, not because it is true but because that has been ingrained into us from the road builders of the last 60 years. In a way these things become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy and we now often see the “PT hasn’t worked so we might as well not even try” type of attitude from some.

    We are starting to see the same thing happen with the so called “middle rung” between Onehunga and East Tamaki, all for just a cool $1b+. Older plans had SH16 between Waterview and the city as the middle rung but in the last few years we have seen this new rung emerge as the next missing link even though much of what aims to do could be achieved much cheaper and easier with a decent upgrade of existing routes like Neilson St and a few better ramp connections to SH1.

    • Matt L

      I should also add, Len and the council are already under attack from many areas as being anti car simply because he has called for better PT and you would think from the comments of some people that he was proposing to rip up the motorways and force everyone onto buses or trains. Of course that’s not the case but not including a new road crossing in the plans, regardless of the reason, would have seen those people and groups really stepping up their vocal opposition of the council and of PT and would likely have distracted people from the real issue.

      We see the same thing with the intensification/sprawl debate with certain people and groups acting as if the whole of Auckalnd will be turned into crappy shoe box apartments.

    • Liam W

      Spot on Matt. All the things you allude to are so ingrained as conventional wisdom now that to suggest otherwise makes you a tree hugger/loony leftie when really there’s nothing political about it, it’s simple facts and logic. We’ve just got to keep trying to get this info out there into the public consciousness but it’s tough – we’re fighting 50+ years of misinformation!

    • James B

      I think the middle rung could be added easily without being a motorway. Just upgrade Neilson Street to 2 lanes each way, realign the intersection with Church Street, ealign the off ramps from the South Western to all go to/from Neilson Street and you’re away. No need for an expensive motorway.

      • arnie03

        Completely. Most of the route is already 4 lanes or incredibly wide. The only bottleneck is at the Onehunga end and should be a simple fix. At the very least spend the much smaller amount first before leaping into a hugely expensive larger project. After all there are so many other things the money could be spent on in this plan than building yet more roads we don’t need.

  • Bryce

    They have the wrong way around. They should start with a rail tunnel and then, when (if?) the harbour bridge reaches the end of it’s life, another vehicle crossing.

  • The real issue is what is the legal status of these plans? Can we object to say NZTA’s Harbour crossing plans formally by showing that they will contradict the Unitary Plan? If so where, Environment court? Show me the hierachy?

    Bryce- of course. But that would require a Minister, a Ministry, and an Agency to be more than just road builders, but actual problem solvers. Very little sign of that now, nor in the last 60 years.

  • Oscar

    The good thing about the proposal for the harbour crossing is the lenght of time before it beginds. Any real design etc. won’t even start until after 2020.

    If a even a modest amount of the plans have been put in place by then the benifits of the crossing will be greatly diminished. Add in the fact that fuel will most likely be double the price by 2020 and we hopefully will have a fully functional inner city rail system. You have to think a road only crossing will have absolutully no traction.

    • Gary Young

      There is also the western ring route to be considered. By 2020 it will have been available to traffic for several years.

      What percentage of vehicles currently using the Bridge will then bypass the central city junction completely? Have any studies or traffic growth projections factored this in?

      Surely North-South regional traffic will divert away from the Bridge and the City as soon as a viable alternative is opened. The need for a second crossing is then diminished in proportion.

  • Watcher

    “making Warkworth a growth node doesn’t really equate with other policies to reduce auto-dependency (the only point of it seems to be to help justify the holiday highway).”
    Its not just a growth node. To put the Council’s plans into perspective – they plan to build a city twice the size of Whangarei around Warkworth. A new road to service that city is just the tip of the iceberg. There will need to be new infrastructure: a general hospital will be required, new schools, the small country police and fire stations will need to be significantly upgraded, I assume that major shopping malls will be developed – and the list just goes on and on. At the last census Warkworth had around 4,000 population – the council sees this area accommodating growth of another 90,000 people – the shock to the area will be massive.

    • Gary Young

      I will concede that one or more growth nodes away from the major metropolitan area makes sense in the long term but why must it be Warkworth?

      Why not Helensville? It is closer to Auckland; 32km compared with 50km for Warkworth. There is plenty of open land around it and if a motorway or expressway had to be extended in that direction the local terrain is not nearly so demanding.

      And the icing on the cake – it already has a railway.

      • Indeed, but those Nats only like the East not the west or south…. And that’s where they’re landbanking

      • [quote]I will concede that one or more growth nodes away from the major metropolitan area makes sense in the long term but why must it be Warkworth?[/quote]

        I don’t follow, why does that make sense? I’d think AKL can easily cope within it’s existing boundaries, and if we want to grow other areas in the region we should try to direct that growth to cities such as Hamilton or Taupo to be more economical wrt infrastructure investment.

        • Gary Young

          I did say in the long term. There will come a time when intensification and increasing housing density within Auckland’s existing boundaries will reach a limit. If the city’s population continues to rise then eventually new green-field sites will have to be developed though they may not be needed for some decades yet. When the time comes I still think Helensville makes a better choice than Warkworth.

          Granted it would be nice if people could be persuaded to settle further afield and bring greater prosperity to other towns and cities but it is a fact of life that Auckland will continue to be the biggest attractor.

      • Watcher

        Helensville is designated as a growth area – just not one of the 8 designated as priority growth areas.

    • Where did the 90,000 figure come from Watcher?

      • Watcher

        From a member of the Rodney Board at a local meeting held recently to discuss saving the northern rail line. I think the actual figure is about 92,000 and the whole meeting was urged to get behind the Council spacial plan to stop it from being more! Some people at the meeting exclaimed that they did not want Warkworth to be turned into another Albany but from what I can see we are talking about building a satellite city on the northern edge of Auckland. Hope they get some decent town planners to design this properly and don’t just let the developers go crazy on the greenfield sites around the town.

  • Nicholas O'Kane

    Given the secound harbour crossing is below Cambridge-Taupo in Joyce’s list of “future roads of National signiciance” we don’t have top worry about the 2nd harbour crossing for some time (although arguably it might just make better sense than a Cambridge-Taupo motorway).

    The real disapointing fact is the road only nature of the harbour crossing. A rail only one would be much preferable, and if trucks are so important we can also have a two lane truck only tunnell or “truckway”

    • I don’t buy the truck argument; where are all these trucks going; are they all going from downtown to Takapuna, or even the port to Glenfield? Or are there some going form say the inland ports to Whangarei? In which case, other than the fact that containers and bulk goods should be on rail, they surely can/will/should use the western ring, isn’t that why we’re spending billions already to facilitate?

      This is just more bullying from the Infrastructure lobbying groups.

  • swan

    “The scenario agreed for this study (for both bridge and tunnel options) includes the following lane allocation on the existing bridge:

    … A bus lane in each direction, but with general traffic heading to the Shelly Beach off ramp sharing the southbound bus lane”

    So even with 2 road crossings, there would not be an exclusive right of way for public transport. WTF are these guys smoking??

  • Bryce

    I’ve got an idea. The ‘park n rides’ on the shore are full every day which indicates to me that if there were more capacity, even more people would use the busway and further reduce any forecast increases in road traffic. How about expanding this concept with perhaps parking buildings. It would be relatively cheap – no? The motor car is pretty efficient over the short distances to the stations. Worth a crack?

    • It costs thousands per car space for park and rides, and is hence not really value for money. Augmenting the network is worth doing, but it should be low cost like bike parking, secure bike parking, and safe cycle paths leading to the stations.

  • Toby

    The idea proposed about Hellensville as a growth node, great idea. But what about Kumeu? It’s closer still. Has rail, and the start of the North-western motorway would be a perfect area for a park and ride scheme?? The effects would be greatly reduced as opposed to Warkworth as residents would actually have a viable alternative to cars, especially if the rail was electrified out to Kumeu and grade separation happened on some of the crossings to speed up average speeds on the western commuter line. Furthermore, they have just upgraded the entire sewage network, I believe, so I am sure the infrastructure could cope with ‘some’ residential infill. In the old plan it was restrained from development because of the high quality soils, but the water allocation or lack there of, has meant that for a lot of people, financial gains out of horticulture has been little or non existent. Just a thought…

  • Go here for the Guardian’s take on aquatic metaphors and travel cards….even a mention for Infratil’s Snapper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2011/sep/25/rail-transport-transport

  • And while I’m at it, there’s this too, it’s in decline everywhere…..http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/25/end-of-motoring

  • Well here’s the answer I was expecting; in the herald today Nick Smith is planning to force AK to sprawl: ‘a Gov policy statement for AK that the AK plan will have to comply with’ Ie forced sprawl.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10754610

    No democracy, especially for AK, under these bullies.

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